September 06, 2023
Get to know Audra McDonald
As an artist, Audra McDonald is in a class all her own. Not only is she the first person to win a Tony Award in all four performance categories with ten nominations and a record-breaking six wins – the most acting performance wins in history – she also holds a Grammy, two Emmys, the National Medal of Arts, and, in 2015, was honored as one of TIME's 100 Most Influential People. She's earned consistent acclaim for the astonishing variety of roles she's created, whether on Broadway, film, or television. But coinciding with those triumphs, Audra has also developed a spectacular reputation as a concert and cabaret artist, bringing to those performances an extraordinary ability to illuminate every song she performs.
Since her debut at New York's Lincoln Center in Carousel (for which she won her first Tony Award), Audra has been a favorite of audiences everywhere. The characters she's portrayed – the tragic Sarah in Ragtime, the vengeful heroine of Marie Christine, the love-starved spinster Lizzie in 110 in the Shade, and so many more – have been deeply enriched by her gifts as both singer and actress. And when Audra takes to the concert stage, all of her dramatic gifts combine miraculously with her vocal brilliance to create an exhilarating evening of song.
Throughout her storied career, Audra has headlined concerts with major orchestras from Chicago, New York, and Philadelphia to Cleveland, Los Angeles, and more. She's been a favorite at Carnegie Hall since her debut there in 1998, when she opened the season as featured soloist with the San Francisco Symphony (a performance seen nationwide on PBS). She's also appeared with such prestigious ensembles as the Berlin Philharmonic, and the London Symphony Orchestra.
Audra is a familiar figure on American television, with major highlights including four appearances for the Kennedy Center Honors. She became a household name to millions thanks to her long-standing roles on Private Practice as Dr. Naomi Bennett, The Good Fight as Liz Reddick, and The Guilded Age as Dorothy Scott. On the big screen, she hit a high note with Disney fans as the opera singing Madame Garderobe in the star-studded live-action remake of Beauty and the Beast, and as Aretha Franklin's mother, Barbara, in the 2021 biopic Respect.
Of course, the joy of hearing Audra in concert has everything to do with the glorious sound of her voice. It's better, actually, to say "sounds," for none of her contemporaries can surpass her ability to create distinctive colors with her instrument. A matchlessly warm, full, radiant lyric soprano, it's a voice that can ring the rafters, but at the same time create exquisite intimacy. Hers is also a voice that can make the words live for the audience. Every word Audra sings is crystal clear, and with each phrase we hear her giving herself completely to the heart of the song.
One extraordinary contribution Audra has made to American music has been her passionate interest in championing the composers and lyricists of her own time. She has sought out today's most remarkable songwriters, who have jumped at the chance to create new pieces especially for her. You can be sure that many of those songs will be memorably represented in her concert at Lyric. And Audra's brilliance in contemporary repertoire is equaled by everything she brings to the "American songbook," in which she's able to convince listeners that they're hearing a long-familiar song as if for the very first time.
Experience one of the finest voices of our generation with the Lyric Opera Orchestra, conducted by Andy Einhorn at An Evening with Audra McDonald on Friday, October 6.